Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In a Stew

I wanted to show you something I accomplished yesterday. It was a sort of experiment with the canning department. I canned 14 qts. of beef stew, in gravy. In the past I've done this, with making gravy with regular cornstarch. Some say not to can in the gravy; that you should make the gravy after it's canned, when you go to heat it up. That's not going to work with my family, they don't make gravy. And besides, then there are the extra dishes to do b/c you had to mix up the gravy. It just wouldn't take as good in my opinion. So, (I'm sure this is boring to someone who has no interest in canning), I experimented yesterday with thickening my stew with clear jel. I have to say, I'm impressed so far. Instead of the congealed cloudy look I've gotten before, this is a nice thick gravy, nice and shiny. 2 jars didn't seal and we had them for lunch and mmmmm, it was good!
All I did was bake 3 roasts in the oven. Then peeled a 10 pound bag of potatoes, 2 pound bag of carrots, most of 2 onions. I took the roasts and cut them into chunks, cut chunks of potatoes (on the large bite size b/c I didn't want them to disintegrate in the pressure canning), and slices of carrots. Chopped up onions, oh, and fresh garlic too. I mixed the meat and veggies all together in a huge bowl. Then I took the roast drippings, added beef base, salt, pepper, and probably at least a gallon of water. Thickened it with the clear jel (it's modified corn starch) mixed with water. Packed the meat & veggie mixture into the jar (didn't precook the veggies), poured the gravy over the top with 1 inch of headspace, and put the lids on the jars. I canned it for 130 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, and it was done.
I just got the jars cleaned up, labeled, and put up on the shelf. It is nice to have stuff like this in the fall and winter and it's a quick meal when you don't feel like cooking.
I'm still on a roll, trying to get fallish type work done. I think we'll have all our firewood in this week, yeah!!! Well, on to more of my regular kind of day, and I hope yours is a nice one!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I've been cleaning!

The pictures got on here all backwards, but I wanted to show some progress on my work around home lately. I didn't get pictures of the canned peaches, apricots, peach pie filling, apricot nectar, etc., but use your imagination. A friend came over the other day and I sooooo wished I had a gate at the driveway so no one could see what I did!
For some reason, (is it becomes I'm blonde or left-handed or ???) I start a project like spring cleaning in the fall, rip everything out of everywhere, have a huge mess that looks like I have no reason to it at all, and it just keeps growing until it takes over the whole house. Then someone shows up lol.

I had brought home the fruit from Yakima, started then, went to the back of the house to get something from the sewing/craft/project room, known that day as the disaster zone, and suddenly decided to clean it while canning?????? Well, after tearing into it, I got the fruit into the jars, got them going, started the timing, kept some jars ready to go into the canner, kept cleaning up the other room....somehow I got through the weekend. I took me two days to clean out my sewing room! I think I have more needles than 10 people would use in a life time! I got my fabric organized so I feel like doing something with it. I didn't even get pictures of the sewing part! That took me one whole day! I have tubs of wool, b/c I am a beginner rug-hooker. But I got it narrowed down from the mess I had it in. I have a collection of tatting patterns from my Grandma that I couldn't part with it. But I did part with I won't tell you how many bags of stuff, and let me tell you, it felt good. I didn't get a picture of my Etsy shop stuff, but I had a mess. I had expired stuff mixed with current stuff and it was in too many places for comfort finding it when it sold lol. So, I feel great about that. Now it will be more fun getting my listing on, which I need to do more of.

I found these suitcases a few weeks ago. Neat leather ones. I think they're going to be sold, haven't decided yet, but for now, they're on my porch. And my porch is getting it next! I need to get the Americana down and get some fall out there. This sewing machine, I got for $10. at a sale, it had a very musty smell that I just couldn't stand. I cleaned it up and put it on the porch for the summer to air out. NOW it can go to my sewing room, unless I decide to part with it, too. I'm just in a getting-rid-of-mood I guess! The geraniums at the top are ones my mom and sis got me. I don't know why, but when I first got them, they were loaded with blooms, then for a month or more I had no blossoms at all! Now, they're blossoming again and I'm loving them.
See this table? Well, last week you couldn't! It's just waiting for me to make a mess on! Don't look at the walls, I didn't do anything with them yet! You'd be proud of me if you saw it before, but I couldn't stand the shame to take the picture.

I found this neat suitcase at our church rummage sale. I put "shelves" in it and put some scrappy supply stuff in it, and some stuff I'm learning to do b/c my wonderful friend Natalie showed me how to solder. Thanks Natalie, I'm still working on it!
My kids think this room is for all of us???? I keep trying to tell them, it's mine, but then there's a part of me that loves to see them being creative and I give in and let them use it. But I'm trying very hard to teach them to put stuff away. Why is it so hard to teach a kid to put away craft stuff when I have such a hard time with it myself??? B/C they're learning it from their mother I guess. I do wish though, that it would eventually bother them and they'd just WANT to go back and clean up their mess.

See this desk? You couldn't last week. I know there are still a ton of books there, but I need them. I know I haven't finished putting my buttons and things away on the top, but the bag is holding a project for my porch chairs, the boxes have important cards and paper dolls and stuff. But let me tell you, it's so much better and I can get inspired now!
See this set of house plans? My son got some plans for a house my husband built for some people and decided he wanted to make some plans, too. For a 10 year old using just a ruler, I thought it looked pretty good. But do you know where this project is? He was laying on the floor in the middle of my room. I guess he was inspired b/c he could find the floor lol. No kidding, I had boxes all over in there of stuff I have to sell for Etsy and stuff I want to do. Now it's all organized and off the floor yippee!
See this window? It's a bay in my room. You wouldn't have found it last week! Now the kids want to sit there and do read or do craft stuff. Well, ok, but clean up what you get out. The shovel, one of my boys bought me for Mother's Day. It's one of those things that isn't really "me", but when I look at it, it tugs at my heart b/c he made his dad take him into our local Hi-School Pharmacy and get it for me b/c he thought it was my perfect gift. I have a few things like that. Like the glass candy dish from the dollar store that HAS to have a prominent place in my dining room. But it's a heart thing and I love it.
Yesterday, I got my pantry cleaned out, and today I'm on to the back porch and getting the hot tub cleaned that I already emptied and refilled. It feels good. I love fall, but I don't want summer to end, b/c I don't want fall to come and go. I try to stretch summer out a long time, then stretch fall out until the holiday, have one month of winter, then back to spring. That's if I had it my way!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Now I'm in Love..with my MILs rolling pin!

This week I've been pretty busy canning and cleaning up from a trip to Yakima to (go to the Clayson Farm show) get peaches. Well, the peaches were the way for me to get my husband to make SURE I was finally able to get to the Clayson Farm show. What a blast that was, but I'm going to tell my story backwards.
Cheating. I got 5 boxes of peaches and 2 boxes of gorgeous Apricots while in Yakima. Came home and started in on them. It was too early for Elbertas, and I can't remember what the name of my peaches were, but I felt like we got a great deal of some nice peaches at $10. a box. Around here they are $18. I saved one of my boxes of peaches to make pie filling, and this year I tried something I hadn't done before. In the past I've canned pie filling using regular corn starch, but it doesn't look that nice when you go to use it. It kind of congeals. Last year I found out about using clear gel, and gave it a try and I love the way it worked. The gel in the filling is translucent and beautiful.

Well, I had 2 extra quarts of pie filling so I decided to bake a couple pies and try it out. I was so busy and so tired that when I was at Cash n Carry, I decided to try Krusteaz pie crust mix. Wow, that was so easy, I may keep it around for emergency dessert! I usually don't CHEAT on my pie crust. In fact, sorry, but I like using lard for it. But you know what I'm in love with? Grandma's rolling pin! I cheated and got a picture off the web to show you the kind of rolling pin I mean. The marble kind. I had asked my MIL why she used such a heavy rolling pin when she was so weak, and she said she just doesn't bake anymore. After she passed away, my sister-in-law offered the rolling pin to me and I figured I'd give it a try. I was raised by a wood-rolling-pin-mom, so had never tried it. Am I ever glad I inherited it! I may never use the wooden one again. It's so heavy that you just roll it across the dough, it rolls out perfectly! If you're ever at a sale and see one, grab it! You will be in love, too.

Now, I'll back track and tell you, that, while I didn't get a gob of pictures at the Clayson Farm sale, it was well worth the 4 hours we drove to go to it. It was so country, so Americana, in a lot of ways. I love their place. I love that it has these little gutters of water going around the back yard, too. It was neat to get to go bombard their home with probably thousands of other people. Loved the old buildings, too. Everyone had such neat stuff, I was getting lost! My husband has his own things, books, that he watches for anywhere he goes, so that kept him and my son busy, besides the food lol. I wanted to stop and say hi to Leslee, but she was soooo busy. The vendors were all so nice. It's amazing to me, things you'd never be drawn to, you see displayed in such neat ways, you can't help but get inspired.

On our way out of town, we found the peaches, AND THIS BARN!!! We had to stop and take a couple pictures for our growing collection of dream barn pictures....for someday. We couldn't get too close or too gawky, but isn't it beautiful? A girl can dream!


Monday, August 3, 2009

A Dear Mom Letter from Your Son

This is the most fun I've had listing an item on Etsy! Sometimes you just gotta laugh. Below is my description for my listing:

I recently found this letter, written by a son in 1949 from the fully modern, 75 room Bvrwood Hotel and Apartments in Beatrice, NE. Mom evidentally collected stamps because the envelope has the familiar torn off stamp corner.

George writes that he is back in Beatrice for how long, he doesn't know. The second sentence, he gets right to the point: Oh yes, this is probably going to be a big surprise to you but Margaret and I are planning on getting married. How you are going to take this, I don't know.
(Mom's probably sitting down with her hanky now, her heart breaking, do you think?)

Sonny goes on to say Margaret is going to write mom a letter. (That's nice, don't you think?)

(It gets better) But you should be happy that I have found someone who I can say, you should know something about, and "who is a woman". (He really put that in parenthesis??? Hmmm, let's read some more) who will at least meet you halfway on anything. I do have to say, no matter what should be said, & what they think, I picked the right one.

(OK, back to business...) I hope your Easter plant was OK mother, and we also tried to call, but no dice, on account of the earthquake. (Well, I must say, that is one I haven't heard yet, have you???) I hope you are all right, all of you. ??? (Huh, he's not sure yet if they survived? And I thought my son went through some moments!) I will try and get out to see you real soon. Please tell all hello and kiss little Virgle for me.

He ends the letter, saying he'll give them news about his brother when he sees them, and Margaret does send her love.

(I'll bet mother is rocking away in that chair, with a far-away look in her eye. I know, I have a son. She's dabbing away at her cheeks, all her dreams are smashed b/c he didn't married little Sally down the street. Oh, I know I'm reading into this, but gosh, that's better than wondering if they made it through the earthquake. Oh yes, they must have, b/c momma already ripped the stamp off the envelope!)

Well, there is is. His letter is in the original, and is just waiting for you to use it in your art work lol.